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Tones of the Unknown with Cathy of Datachoir

Read about the Mastro Valvola LFO Optical Tremolo, Recovery Effects Sound Destruction Device, and GFI System Synesthesia with Cathy of Datachoir.

March 14, 2022
Written by
Emily Harris
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The only thing better than a mystery is a sequel.

In case you missed it, in January, Reverb, the online music gear marketplace, sponsored part one of our series “Tones of the Unknown,” wherein Livvy of Mamalarky was sent a box of mystery effects pedals to explore. 

Now we’re back, this time with Cathy Begien of Datachoir. Cathy was sent some truly incredible pedals from Reverb, and we’re excited to share more details of these stellar effects.

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All of Mastro Valvola’s effects are designed and built in Italy, a country well-known for their impressive craftsmanship and design. And Mastro Valvola’s pedals are no different. “This thing feels very sturdy and slick,” Cathy remarks as they first take a look at the LFO Optical Tremolo during their unboxing.   

Featuring an impressive 16 different tremolo waveforms, the Mastro Valvola LFO Optical Tremolo gives players the warm, vintage tremolo tones found in valve amps, but with added modern functionality and flair. 

So what is optical tremolo? Many vintage tube amplifiers employed optical tremolo, which uses a light-dependent resistor (aka photocell), to create their tremolo effects. Light=optical. So, essentially, the LFO (low-frequency oscillator) turns a light bulb on and off, which varies the resistance in the photocell, turning the volume up or down. The characteristics of optical tremolo are smooth, pulsating, and somewhat lopsided. 

In the Mastro Valvola LFO Optical Tremolo, the photocell is managed by a “digital brain,” which enables its 16 waveforms, tap tempo (so, as Cathy points out, you can change the speed on the fly with your foot) with three selectable subdivisions, and the ability to alter the shape of the 16 LFO waveforms via the symmetry control. 

Cathy shows off a few of the settings in their video, getting a fluttery “purr” out of the Mastro Valvola LFO Optical Tremolo as they ramp up the speed in a sawtooth wave shape. They also show off some of the trippier settings in a square wave shape by adding some drive and increasing the rate of the LFO, creating a sound that borders on that of a ring mod.

At $399, the Mastro Valvola LFO Optical Tremolo is a premium tremolo pedal with high-end features. If you’re in search of a versatile, smooth, vintage-voiced tremolo with modern touches and a bevy of waveforms, this is an excellent option to consider.

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Though Cathy was quietly hoping for their Cutting Room Floor during their unboxing, they were sent the Seattle-based Recovery Effects’ hand-wired fuzz, filter, and oscillation pedal, Sound Destruction Device V3. So, does the Sound Destruction Device live up to its name? Oh yeah, it definitely does. 

More than a fuzz or gain pedal, the Sound Destruction Device delivers glitchy, splatty, voltage-starved sounds that can be shaped with its two filter knobs. It offers a wide host of controls in addition to the filter knobs, giving you—if nothing else—the feeling of control over elements including gate or threshold, amount of distortion, compression, and oscillation. The oscillation can even be controlled by an external expression pedal. 

Cathy wastes no time getting gnarly noises out of the Sound Destruction Device via their Fender Jaguar and Benson Monarch. “It’s great for S.O.S. noises,” Cathy remarks, using their Jaguar’s pickup selector controls as a kill switch. If you’re looking for something untamable, check out the Recovery Effects Sound Destruction Device, which retails at $229 and is hand-made by the husband and wife team out of Seattle, WA.

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One thing we haven’t seen until now in Tones of the Unknown: Screens. That changed when Cathy unboxed the GFI System Synesthesia, a dual-channel multi-modulation engine that can run two different modulation algorithms simultaneously. 

Named after the condition of experiencing one sense through another—such as seeing color in music—the GFI System Synesthesia features an impressive 38 classic and modern modulation effects and 32 presets out of the box. 

Those effects can be broken down into six categories: amplitude (namely, types of tremolo), filters, swirls & shimmers (such as chorus and flangers), phase (phasers and univibe), sequencers (arpeggiators), and a miscellaneous bucket that includes the warbly “Record Antics” and “Phono Filter” modes Cathy showed off in the video. 

For those looking for maximum versatility in their pedals, Synesthesia also features flexible DSP routings, tap tempo, MIDI in and thru, expression and cv in, and aux switch expansion, making it extremely features-rich for its relatively small footprint. 

Though Cathy opted against connecting the Synesthesia to their computer via the included cable, you can do so to update the firmware and use GFI System’s proprietary editing software. 

Being essentially two pedals in one, it’s not too surprising that the Synesthesia retails at $399. If you’re looking for a multi-modulation solution that can run two effects simultaneously with MIDI capability that runs on standard 9v power, it’s a solid choice.

Thanks to Reverb for sending these pedals and to Cathy for showcasing them! If you’re looking to pick up any gear from Reverb, please be sure to use our affiliate links—it’s a great way to support She Shreds just by stocking up on gear.

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